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The Watch: Introduction to Zent
Consider, if you will, a pocket watch. Such a thing as a pocket watch is an intricate combination of gears and springs, its every delicate detail precision crafted. If you were to walk along the beach and find a ticking pocket watch laying in the sand with the other stones worn smooth by time and entropy, it is very likely you would suppose that some traveler before you had lost his watch, and if you were to be more philosophical about the matter it would be even more tempting to say that, somewhere along the line, there had been a watchmaker who assembled the gears and the springs, and set it ticking, breathing life into the lifeless, artificial matter.
But, for a second, suppose I were to tell you that there was no watchmaker for this watch. That, in fact, the watch had arisen out of natural processes and come into its shape in the same manner that the other stones sitting in the brine came into their shape. Instead of a watchmaker, the watch was forged by chance, countless stones melted just right, worn into the correct shapes by centuries of tiny eddies of air and water, rain on the mountains and the beat of a butterfly’s wings, until such a time as all the parts were in their shapes and indistinguishable from those same man-made parts, at which point the same processes that might bring a highland pebble or tropical coconut to this shore, distant from both mountain and tropics alike, happened to bring those exacting-nature crafted parts together, falling subtly into the very shape you see before you, that of a perfectly working timepiece.
You might be inclined to call it impossible. But is it really? Nature can from metal and stone carve any shape, after all, so perhaps call it unlikely – perishingly, horrifically unlikely that all those shapes would be carved at all, at the same time, and brought together in the correct order, just as we happen to walk by. It would be so unlikely that the odds of it happening would be like unto the odds that for no good reason the sun would refuse to rise tomorrow. I would agree. It is unlikely, so unlikely that for the most part you might as well call it impossible.
And yet… The multiverse is a vast place, so vast that not even the glorious and omnipotent planeswalkers of old would comprehend the fullness of its scale, nor hope to explore its every world and dimension. On countless of those worlds there exist the building blocks for a pocket watch, iron ore and silicate sand, copper and zinc and nickel, and is it just so happens. On countless of those worlds, more of them than all the planeswalkers of Dominaria could ever discover and name, nothing has come of it. On one at least, a smallish and relatively inoffensive plane referred to as Zent, something like what I have described did happen, and the evidence can still be seen.
At first glance, a member of the Aridon species looks very much like a human. Somewhat, different, of course, as Kor and Elves have their differences from humanity, but not so much that they would immediately appear to be alien to your eyes. Their features are regular and perfectly summetrical, and their skin has odd casts to it: ruddy mixed with green or over gray, or shiny white seemingly dusted with black. The Aridon hold themselves tall, and stand all to the exact height of six feet one and five eights inches. Male and female, if there are such distinctions, are indistinguishable, and all seem to wear long hair and have gleaming, vivid eyes.
If you were to appear among a group of them, glancing about, a multitudinous ticking would be your first indication that they were not normal flesh and blood, ticking as though countless clocks and not bewildered natives were surrounding you. Then, on closer inspection, the nature of the Aridon becomes obvious: their eyes are faceted gemstones, their skin iron, copper, or silver that often takes on a patina or rusted tone. That hair that at first looked flaxen on one is fine golden wire, and you would believe yourself surrounded by the creations of a masterful artificer.
In all the expeditions to the plane of Zent, in every archaeological record and every history of the plane itself, the oldest of which are kept by the Aridon, predating the histories of the elves by some five centuries, and from every divination no creator of the Aridon has ever been revealed. Their presence is a quandary, their ticking, clockwork hearts resembling down to the finest detail a creation like those of Urza, or Tawnos, and yet they stand alone, self propagating, as though they always were alone. A watch without a maker.
Devotees of Will
From any township of the Aridon or village of the Zentish elves can be seen dark clouds on the horizon, or closer the outskirts of what must be a grand city. Wherever the land is good enough to support it and not claimed by some other race determined to hold it, these cities have sprung up across the plane of Zent in the last hundred years, gleaming cities of metal and stone populated by the native humans.
They call themselves Devotees of the Will, and their cities are the visible result of a philosophical belief in working towards greatness, the force of an individual will rising above its peers.
This is the image that the Devotees, common and leader alike, wish to present: A society where any being may rise from the basest of ranks to the highest through hard work, or fall by failing to maintain their power. Every being in Devotee society has its fate on its own shoulders, and will succeed or fail by its power alone
Certainly, the constant straining for individual excellence has resulted in great advances for the culture: many wonders of what would be called artifice have they produced, without even the barest touch of magic, great rails of lightning moving men across the skies, and their steel and stone cities raised up at a frightening pace. Devotees have even flirted with the technology of firearms, and produce some of the finest cannons in the mapped multiverse.
However, the Devotee philosophy has long ago destroyed itself: the upper classes, those devotees who worked their way into power and control of lesser men, realized that part of having power was maintaining power, and if their own wills were to continue to be heard and recognized, they would have to find a way to subjugate all the rest striving to rise above them. As such, the leaders moved away from one another, founding more and more cities to insulate themselves from their nearest rivals while setting up fanciful hoops and tasks for promotion. Power begets power, and nowhere can that be seen better than in the failure of a disadvantaged but dedicated Devotee to rise to the level of his ability, while a lord who begins his life with his father’s power needs do relatively little to maintain it.
Zent has one story and only a small amount of information for the plane as a whole. If you have suggestions for races, civilizations, or locations, or you have a story that involves the plane, post your idea in a new thread in the M:EM forums.